Affiliated Organization

Case Western Reserve University, USA


We examine the wake of innovations in architecture and construction propelled by the adoption of digital three dimensional (3D) representations of buildings and their parts. Departing from the traditional view of innovation that treats information technology adoption as an unproblematic, singular event, we examine IT induced innovations and their consequences as path creation created by the network of professional communities involved in architect Frank Gehry's projects. We report the results of a retrospective case study of 3D representation enabled and triggered innovation during the design and construction of the Peter B. Lewis Building at Case Western Reserve University. Our analysis suggests that the consequences of a complex information technology innovation like the use of digital 3D representations of buildings and their part cannot be fully understood as a singular adoption event. Instead, a more holistic and integrated view of the innovation process as continuous path creation by multiple actors sharing practices and feedback across professional communities while they appropriate 3D representations is required. Information technology innovation is not a single event created by a heroic individual or champion, but it involves multiple agents' mindful deviations from established paths of practices and resource use. We observe that the use of 3D representations breaks down the traditional loosely coupled system in construction that relied on 2D representations to share information between different contractors. These representations essentially black-boxed and hid most information how to build the building or how different parts of design interrelate with one another. To effectively adopt and appropriate the potential of 3D representations requires that traditionally isolated actors during design and construction need to be brought together in a tightly coupled system. This system is arranged around rich and complex boundary objects enabled by the digital 3D representations and their transformations.